Criteria for Being an Innovative School Operator (ISO)

The Innovative School District (ISD) welcomes operators that can bring authentic and strategic innovation to our school turnaround efforts. Because schools transferred into the ISD are persistently low-performing schools, there are a high percentage of students performing below grade level. It is critical that the ISD partner with an operator that has proven experience in implementing changes that accelerate student growth and achievement.

The ISD is looking for partners that understand and have experience in addressing both the academic and non-academic barriers that impact student achievement in low-performing schools. A partner, i.e., an Innovative School Operator (ISO) could be a college, a local non-profit organization, a corporation, or even a proven school leader who is interested in launching their own entity to transform low-performing schools. The options for what an operator may be are broad, enabling the ISD to tailor new strategies and transformation plans to each school and community engaged in this program. We want to cultivate a network of potential ISOs that help us eliminate the circumstances that perpetuate low achieving schools. As we do this, we will also start to grow innovation in our schools in a way that facilitates opportunities for students and communities.

If you are interested in learning more about being an Innovative School Operator, please contact us at

By General Statute, ISOs Fall into Two Categories

  1. The entity has a record of results in improving performance of persistently low-performing schools or improving performance of a substantial number of persistently low-performing students within a school or schools operated by the entity in this State or other states.
  2. The entity has a credible and specific plan for dramatically improving student achievement in a low-performing school and provides evidence that the entity, or a contractual affiliate of such an entity, is either currently operating a school or schools in this State that provide students a sound, basic education or demonstrating consistent and substantial growth toward providing students a sound, basic education in the prior three school years.

Examples of Potential Entities

  • Established local, state or national non-profit with a proven school turnaround record
  • College or university who employs a proven turnaround school leader(s)
  • Proven/credible charter management/education management organization
  • Corporation/business entity with a credible plan and a proven turnaround school leader(s)
  • Proven school turnaround leader who creates their own entity

Elements of ISO Partnership & School Operations

  • Transportation to be provided by local school district
  • Direct management by ISO for a five-year contract (possible 3-year extension)
  • ISO authorized to have direct role in making decisions about:
    • school finance
    • human capital
    • curriculum and instruction while developing the leadership capacity in such schools
  • Shall remain open to enrollment in the same manner with the same attendance zone as prior to becoming an innovative school
  • Facility and capital expenditures – Local BOE shall be responsible for facility and capital expenditures. The ISO and local BOE shall enter into an occupancy agreement establishing terms of occupancy for the IS operator
  • In consultation with ISD Superintendent, IS operator may elect to enter into a memorandum of understanding for alternative arrangements with the local BOE to address:
    • Facility and capital expenditures
    • Transportation and nutritional services
    • Services for Children with Disabilities
  • The ISO shall select and hire the school leader (principal/director)
  • All other personnel retained at the school shall be employees of the ISD (selection based on feedback from the ISO and ISD Superintendent)
  • Employees shall be eligible for enrollment in the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System of NC and other benefits available to State employees
  • The ISO shall provide funds to the ISD in an amount sufficient to provide salary and benefits for employees of the ISD working in the innovative school based on the terms of the employment established by the IS operator

School Start-Up Summary

Operators will work in coordination with the ISD, as well as the local school district and community, in start-up activities including:

  • Recruit and hire school leader (employed by operator)
  • Recruit and hire teachers (teachers employed by the ISD)
  • Develop and implement policies and procedures
  • Introduce curriculum and turnaround strategies
  • Introduce curriculum and turnaround strategies
  • Provide training/coaching and support to school staff to ensure effective implementation of plan to achieve desired outcomesIntegrate school website w/ISD site
  • Establish budget
  • Develop and execute transition plan with local district
    • Transportation
    • Child nutrition
    • Pre-k program
    • Facilities
    • Equipment
    • Technology
  • Community engagement